By Matt Brann
Australia's largest privately owned cattle company has been advertised for sale, with industry experts suggesting the company's broad portfolio of beef assets could be worth $1 billion.
The Consolidated Pastoral Company (CPC) runs nearly 400,000 head of cattle across 16 stations, spanning 5.5 million hectares, and also operates two feedlots in Indonesia.
The sale of CPC has been one of the worst kept secrets in northern Australia, with the company now publicly advertising because of requirements by government.
CPC's owner, European private equity firm Terra Firma, has advertised the business for sale "as a whole or in parts".
Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association president Tom Stockwell said the sale would generate interest from around the world.
"It is obviously a significant sale for the Northern Territory and northern Australia generally," he told ABC Rural.
"You would have to think with the way the market is going, there is still a lot of interest from people that are trying to get into the beef and live cattle supply game.
"CPC is one of the very big operators in the north. A really good suite of cattle stations, a good herd and good staff, and good stuff down the line and into Asia … a fair bit of intellectual property there with it as well I would say."
Who will buy?
Chat to anyone in the northern cattle game and the common thought is, "Will Gina Rinehart buy this as well?"
In terms of value, the sale of CPC will dwarf the well-publicised acquisition of S. Kidman and Co in 2016, and if it sells for $1 billion will set a new record in Australia's cattle industry.
Mr Stockwell said Terra Firma's willingness to potentially split up the properties to maximise profit means the stations could be bought by a variety of players.
"There will be everybody from individual cattlemen that might be interested in trying to do a deal on one property or another, right through to global players that would like to buy the whole operation," he said.
"The present owners are a foreign investment group, so I guess there are always those big corporate investors that are looking for opportunities like that.
"There is also the Stanbroke model which saw a group of people get together and cut it up."
The portfolio of CPC stations includes the iconic Newcastle Waters in the Northern Territory, which boasts an impressive homestead complex often referred to as "the house that Kerry Packer built".
Terra Firma bought CPC in 2009 from James Packer.
ABC Rural has been told that Kerry Packer's former business partner Ken Warriner's remaining minor stake in CPC is also part of the sale.
The business is being offered for sale via agency Knight Frank and investment bank Goldman Sachs.